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Counterterrorism and the Expansion of Proactive Police Powers in the Nordic States

NCJ Number
Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention Volume: 14 Issue: 1 Dated: 2013 Pages: 3-23
Erling Johannes Husabo
Date Published
21 pages
This article explains how the last decade's eagerness to fight terrorism has moved Nordic legislators to extend the police's powers to inquire into the preparation of crimes in order to prevent them from being committed.
Special attention is given to the use of covert, coercive methods such as communication surveillance and audio surveillance of private rooms. The expansion of police powers stems from the cumulate effect of the criminalization of acts preparatory to terrorism, the introduction of new types of covert investigation methods, and (in Norway, Finland, and Sweden) the partial removal of the traditional threshold of a reasonable suspicion of a criminal act. The effects go far beyond the field of terrorism. New law proposals in the aftermath of the 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway suggest that the pressure towards more proactive use of covert police methods will continue. Finally, two basic premises of this development are discussed. The assumption that further expansions will substantially contribute to the prevention of terrorism suffers from a lack of scientific basis. Legal safeguards such as court control of individual decisions and the establishment of intelligence oversight boards can only to a limited extent counterbalance the interference with the right to respect for private life. Abstract published by arrangement with Taylor and Francis.